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House fetal heartbeat bill is about religion, not science



“This resolution has one purpose,” said Cory Garland, a volunteer with The Womxn Project. “And that is to lay the foundation to ban abortion in the State of Rhode Island.”

NOTE: Immediately after I published this piece I learned that Chris Young, who testified in support of this bill with his wife Kara Russo-Young and his daughter, died last night. My thoughts are with his family. Though we agreed on little, they were always kind to me personally.

“I kind of feel like Moses, going before the Pharaoh,” said Representative James McLaughlin (Democrat, District 57, Central Falls), introducing a resolution recognizing the fetus as a human life upon the existence of a heartbeat. “Asking to consider these little ones as human beings.”

It was a strange analogy, considering that the God of Moses would ultimately murder the first born of Egypt, not really treating them as human beings at all.

The analogy was also a departure for McLoughlin, who strove mightily in his resolution and his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee to contextualize his resolution in scientific rather than religious terms. McLoughlin spoke in science-y terms of embryos and fertilization, DNA and medical advances.

But his argument ultimately is not a scientific one, but a religious one, as most of those testifying in support of his resolution admitted, whether they intended to or not. I put the testimony in support of the resolution near the end of this page.

Judy Zimmer, in taking on the “science” in the resolution, noted that the resolution is based on “flawed information or untruths.”

“This is a belief,” said Susan. “A religious belief that some have [and] some people don’t… There is a separation of church and state, and I don’t see that happening here.”

“This resolution has one purpose,” said Cory Garland, a volunteer with The Womxn Project. “And that is to lay the foundation to ban abortion in the State of Rhode Island.”

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“We need to have compassion for the woman and the father. We need to care about the determination of their lives and their choice, and the freedom of privacy,” said United Methodist Pastor Wendy Van Orden, testifying against the resolution.

Here’s all the testimony in favor of the resolution:

Here’s the resolution:

House resolution recognizing the fetus as a human life upon the existence of a heartbeat

Introduced by Representatives McLaughlin, Jose Serodio (Democrat, District 64, East Providence), Camille Vella-Wilkinson (Democrat, District 21, Warwick), Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence), and Raymond Hull (Democrat, District 6, Providence).

WHEREAS, There exists a continuing debate in this nation and state as to abortion and ascertaining the moment that human life begins; and

WHEREAS, Upon fertilization, an egg becomes a zygote. Shortly thereafter, the zygote splits into two cells, and is called a two-celled embryo. When it splits into four cells, it is called a four-celled embryo, etc.; and

WHEREAS, If an embryo is then nourished and protected, it will proceed, uninterrupted, through the developmental stages from embryo to fetus; and

WHEREAS, There is sound scientific evidence that the heart of a fetus begins beating at about the eighteenth through the twenty-fourth day of fetal development and that this heartbeat, sometimes described as a “flutter”, indicates and is recognized as the existence of life; and

WHEREAS, Today, advances in medical care have greatly improved the chances for survival of fetuses born preterm; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, That this House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby recognizes that the existence of a fetal heartbeat or flutter is evidence of the existence of human life and that advancements in the field of prenatal care are dramatically improving survival for babies born preterm.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.